On Thursday afternoon, at the iconic Monte-Carlo Beach hotel on the outskirts of Monaco, Chanel is hosting its first international cruise show since artistic director Virginie Viard made her debut at the helm of the brand in 2019.
This will be the high point of two days of festivities that the brand will welcome for around 400 customers, press and celebrity ambassadors of the brand including Charlotte Casiraghi, 11th on the Monegasque throne.
This is just the beginning. Several dozen of those attending the Chanel show will soon fly to La Jolla, Calif., for Louis Vuitton on May 12; in Castel del Monte in the Italian region of Puglia for Gucci on May 16; and in New York for Balenciaga on May 21. Dior and Max Mara will present their own shows in Spain and Portugal, respectively, later in June. And in July, Dolce & Gabbana will host its 10th Alta Moda show, which will take place in different cities in Italy.
At the start of the pandemic, I predicted that these shows from fabulous, distant destinations — which seemed increasingly out of step in a climate crisis — would go the way of the dodo. Although there is no concrete estimates on environmental impact, brands typically send hundreds of models, staff and press, sometimes privately, to these events (not to mention the hundreds of flights guests book for themselves). Instead, they are back, and as many as before.
Last week, Pucci traveled to Capri to present the first creations of its new artistic director Camille Miceli, just as Dior unveiled its pre-fall women’s collection in Seoul. Dior, LVMH’s second-biggest brand in terms of sales, will also host a destination fashion show for its spring men’s collection for the first time, to be held in Los Angeles on May 19. Art collection she unveiled outside Paris in December in Florence.
“These brands need to be visible after two years of restrictions,” says Thomas Chauvet, head of luxury goods research at Citi. “Making an event that will be completely amplified in all sorts of online channels helps [these brands] with their deep pockets differentiate themselves.
Coco Chanel is credited with inventing the concept of “Cruise” in 1919, when she introduced an off-season collection designed for affluent European and American women who vacationed south of the French Riviera or Palm Beach. in search of the midwinter sun. Chanel’s Karl Lagerfeld reintroduced the Cruise collections in the 1980s, soon followed by Dior.
These early shows were “strictly for customers,” recalls Michael Burke, CEO of Louis Vuitton, then head of Dior’s US operations. “And the press being what the press should be, they seized it, and then it’s not just for customers anymore, but also an important image event.”
But after two years of travel restrictions in which luxury brands shifted their focus from attracting tourists to deepening ties with local customers, and learned to rely on their local teams to run events – Burke says Vuitton is taking a new approach to Cruise. Where once local customers made up about a quarter of the seats, in La Jolla they will take up the majority. The event will also be smaller overall, with between a third and half the number of guests than at pre-pandemic cruise shows.
“Some of our best shows, not a single person [from our headquarters] traveled,” says Burke, citing the 2020 Louis Vuitton men’s event in Shanghai, which was entirely organized by the China team. “It has created talents and skills in our local teams that are not going to disappear. They now know how to produce, execute, spot [models] and create music for their shows, completely. We will of course provide inspiration, but we no longer reproduce the shows.
Executives say the cost of a destination show isn’t significantly different than when it’s hosting during Paris Fashion Week, but the return on investment is better. The locations provide stunning backdrops for the collections – see the exuberant ruffled dresses from Dolce & Gabbana’s latest Alta Moda collection photographed aboard a fleet of gondolas in Venice, or the sleek, graphic dresses from Dolce & Gabbana’s Cruise 2017 collection. Louis Vuitton against the futuristic sweep of the Niteròi Museum of Contemporary Art in Rio – providing visuals that adorn the front pages of newspapers and are widely shared on Instagram.
“It’s a real opportunity to tell our story and have everyone’s attention for three whole days, unlike Milan where we have a 20-minute slot. [amid] 10 more shows,” says Ian Griffiths, Creative Director of Max Mara. The label is planning a number of activities for its 200 guests in Portugal in June, including local tours, lunches and dinners.
“For a great show [at Paris Fashion Week]if you get a few lines [in a newspaper], you’re happy,” said Chanel fashion president Bruno Pavlovsky, speaking in Monaco the day before the Chanel Cruise show. “Here, the quality is deeper.”
It’s not just about the shows. Cruise collections are also important revenue drivers for brands. Sometimes labeled “Pre-Spring” or “Resort”, they tend to hit stores in October and November and hang on full-price store shelves much longer than the main season collections, selling them more widely. .
“Their weight got bigger and bigger,” says Pavlovsky. “The Cruise collection is delivered in October [and stays until] June.”
So the collections will continue to travel. But as the brands have spent two years talking about their respective sustainability commitments, might the return of these shows seem, shall we say, incongruous?
“[Companies such as] LVMH tends to communicate around better materials. . . and resale,” says Citi’s Chauvet. “They won’t go so far as to shut down a major communications event.”
Vuitton’s Burke says the brand is “clearly” thinking about Cruise’s environmental impact, noting that he himself travels “much less than two years ago.” He hopes that guests will not just attend the show, but will have a longer stay in Southern California.
Cruise “is always about travel, being inspired by travel,” he continues. “Our industry wouldn’t exist if we weren’t inspired by cultures around the world. . . We just have to be a lot smarter about it, travel less.
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